With property tax statements going throughout the region, those owning land and structures on the Plateau are seeing some of the biggest increases.
According to King County, average tax bills in Enumclaw are up 11 percent over 2020. It’s nearly the same across the White River in Buckley, where the average jump has come in at 10.75 percent.
BIG JUMP IN ENUMCLAW
According to the King County Assessor’s Office, voter approval of special levies, in conjunction with a strong housing market, is responsible for a 4.03 percent general increase in King County property tax collections for 2021. However, it is noted that some jurisdictions will see double-digit increases – and that’s where Enumclaw enters the mix.
In fact, Enumclaw residents didn’t just see a property tax hike, but the fourth largest increase of 11 percent across King County, behind the city of Pacific (13 percent), Maple Valley (15 percent), and Algona (18 percent).
According to King County, this increase is largely due to voters approving a replacement instructional technology levy for the Enumclaw School District in February 2020. The levy is being used to “acquire and install instructional technology equipment and infrastructure, replace and upgrade computers, personal computing devices, hardware, software and telecommunication systems, provide related staff training and support to implement such technology improvements and make other improvements and upgrades to the District’s technology systems and facilities,” according to a resolution passed by the Enumclaw School Board.
Roughly 56 percent of those voting in the special election approved the levy, although only about 38 percent of Enumclaw voters actually cast a ballot.
The levy adds 35 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value to homeowners’ tax bills through 2026. This increases the levy rate of the city from $10.83 to $11.
According to King County Chief Deputy Assessor Al Dams, the reason why there doesn’t seem to be a 35 cent increase is because the 2020 levy wasn’t new, but a renewal — meaning the public only sees the difference between last year’s levy collection, about 18 cents, and this year’s.
Overall, countywide property tax collections for 2021 are pegged at $6.6 billion, an increase of $256 million from the previous year.
“This year’s tax bills reflect the complexity of our property tax system,” said Assessor John Wilson. “Taxes are going up for many county residents, but not all. And the pandemic which has affected all our lives has hit the economy hard, but has not dramatically affected property values.”
King County started sending out the annual property tax bills Feb. 16, collecting taxes on behalf of the state, the county, cities, and taxing districts (such as school and fire districts).
About 57 percent of 2021 King County property tax revenues pays for schools. Property taxes also fund voter-approved measures for veterans and seniors, fire protection, and parks. King County receives about 17 percent of property tax payments for roads, police, criminal justice, public health, elections, and parks, among other services.
King County taxpayers who are 61 years or older, or disabled, own their home, and have an annual income of $58,423 or less after certain medical or long-term care expenses, may be eligible for tax relief. For information about possible tax exemptions visit www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/TaxRelief.aspx.
During 2020, the Assessor’s Office saw a more than 300 percent increase in the number of residents applying for senior exemptions – and more are expected to apply in 2021.
Property owners can find tax levy rates and more property related information by visiting the eReal Property Search on the King County Assessor’s website or by calling 206-296-7300.
BUCKLEY TAX HIKE
When it comes to property taxes, what applies to Pierce County as a whole doesn’t match the reality found by those who own land and buildings in and around Buckley.
The county Assessor’s Office recently sent property tax statements to the owners of residential and commercial land and buildings in Pierce County. At the same time, the office issued a press release that contained good news for many parts of the county.
“While real estate values continue to surge in Pierce County, statutory limits on property tax rates are holding tax increases to modest levels this year,” Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan said. “For the past three years, tax bills fluctuated due to the McCleary court decision on school funding. This year they’ve settled down in most areas, even decreasing in a couple districts.”
But there are exceptions to every rule and, in this case, those living on the Plateau are exception No. 1.
While there are many taxing entities contributing to a property owner’s total bill, Lonergan noted that support for the White River School District played a role in the local increase. Voters in the district approved a supplemental enrichment levy that takes effect this year, Lonergan said, attributing that to a bump in local tax rates.
But schools are just a slice of the taxation pie. In addition, property taxes are collected by city and county government, fire districts, emergency medical service, parks, libraries, roads, the Port of Tacoma, Sound Transit and flood control districts. Fees for conservation, noxious weed control and surface water are also included on the property tax statement.
Lonergan’s office provided a breakdown of total tax bills on average dwellings in the 17 school districts in the county. Of those, owners of property in the White River district are the only ones being hit with a double-digit hike in 2021.
A tax table provided by the Assessor-Treasurer’s Office showed the following: in 2019, the average property value within the boundaries of the school district was a bit more than $386,000, creating a 2020 tax rate of about $12.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or a total bill of $4,825. The average property value increased significantly, climbing to more than $416,000; that brought a new collection rate of $12.83 which means an annual property tax bill of $5,343.
That’s an increase of 10.75 percent, the highest in any of the county’s 17 school districts. In dollars-and-cents terms, the tax hike amounts to an additional $518 for 2021.
Elsewhere in the county, voters in the Puyallup School District also passed a school levy, creating a formula that will bring a tax increase of about $350 this year. On the flip side, city of Tacoma residents will experience the smallest increase, only $40 on the average home, largely due to a reduced Metropolitan Park District construction bond.
Residents of the nearby Orting School District fared best this year, with taxes on the average home reduced by $170, due to decreased school levy rates. Tax rates also dropped in the Graham Fire District, to be replaced by a new Fire Benefit Charge which is calculated differently than taxes.
Countywide, property taxes billed this year total $1.67 billion, a 4.8 percent increase over 2020. The state and local portions for schools add up to 59.6 percent of all property taxes in Pierce County. The cities and county, including the road district, add up to 21 percent and fire districts equal 11 percent.
The annual tax bill is determined by multiplying property value (in thousands of dollars) by the combined rate of all taxing districts where the property is located.
Last year (2020) saw hefty tax increases for most property owners, due to the Washington State Legislature’s increase in the maximum local school district enrichment levy, from $1.50 to $2.50 per $1,000 of property value.
Property owners may view their tax statement online at the Assessor-Treasurer’s website, piercecountywa.gov/atr, by entering either their tax parcel number or their street address. Payment is due in two halves, by April 30 and Nov. 1, for those who do not have taxes includes in their monthly mortgage payment.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the service counter at the Pierce County Annex remains closed, but taxpayers with questions may contact the Assessor-Treasurer staff by computer chat on the website or by calling 253-798-6111.